The head of the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board, David Platt, recently stated that churches in the United States are supposed to focus on Jesus Christ and not nationalism.
Preaching at the Virginia-based McLean Bible Church on the Sunday before Independence Day, Platt focused his sermon on the issues of "God and government" and faith and freedom."
"If we're not careful we can ... almost unknowingly think about the government the way the world thinks about the government instead of the way God's Word thinks about government. In a similar way, we can have more of an American idea of freedom than a biblical idea of freedom," Platt, who is pastor teacher at Mclean Bible Church, said.
During his message, Platt spoke that while he is "incredibly thankful for the political freedom that we enjoy in this country," there is nevertheless "a much, much greater freedom that we are celebrating in this gathering."
"And this freedom does not come from a government. This freedom comes from our God," said Platt, adding that the freedom found in Jesus Christ is present "no matter where we live, no matter where our passport is from. It's a freedom that transcends nations, governments."
"As thankful as we are for the freedom that our government gives us, the purpose of our gathering today and every Sunday all year long is to celebrate the freedom God has given us."
Platt went on to stress, especially for those listening who were citizens of the United States, that churches, including McLean Bible, celebrate a unity that goes beyond national identity.
"We have not gathered today, even on July 4th week, to celebrate our U.S. citizenship. That's not what the church does because that's not who the church is. The church doesn't unite around an earthly citizenship. The church unites around a heavenly citizenship," Platt declared.
"We have more in common with a Syrian Christian sitting next to us than an American atheist. Far more in common forever. Which is why when we gather as a church, we put aside national, even political differences."
Platt stated that the church "worship under the banner not of a country, but under the banner of a King. And that King's name is definitely not Donald Trump, it wasn't Barack Obama, it wasn't George Bush or Bill Clinton. And for that matter, it was never George Washington, either. Our King's name is, always has been, and always will be Jesus Christ."
While Christians are not called to absolute submission to political authority, noted Platt in accordance with 1<sup>st Peter 2:17, they are expected to honor leaders, even ones they disagree with politically.
"Some of us, if we're honest, held Barack Obama in high honor, now have a hard time showing honor for Donald Trump. Others of us have much honor for Donald Trump and had a hard time showing honor for Barack Obama," continued Platt.
"But brothers and sisters the Bible doesn't give us a choice here. This is a command. And if Nero was worthy of honor in the first century, then our president and our leaders are worthy of honor in the twenty-first century."
Platt's comments on going beyond political differences and respecting authority even when one disagrees with it comes at a time in America when there exists an apparent rise in incivility.
Incidents of Trump administration officials being denied service at restaurants and calls for increased confrontation of political opponents have dominated recent headlines.
Democrat Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California garnered controversy when in a speech late last month she called on supporters to harass members of the Trump administration whenever they appeared in public.
"If you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd and you push back on them and you tell them they're not welcome anymore, anywhere," declared Rep. Waters, who later clarified that she opposed such confrontations being violent.
In response, President Trump took to Twitter to call Waters "an extraordinarily low IQ person" and also called the Red Hen restaurant of Virginia, which refused to serve Sarah Sanders and her family, "filthy."
"The Red Hen Restaurant should focus more on cleaning its filthy canopies, doors and windows (badly needs a paint job) rather than refusing to serve a fine person like Sarah Huckabee Sanders. I always had a rule, if a restaurant is dirty on the outside, it is dirty on the inside," tweeted Trump.